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In a 2017 article in The Sun, “Top footballers are wrecking their performances by having tattoos, claim experts” it is claimed:

Dr Ingo Frobose, of Cologne’s German Sports University, urged clubs to ban their players from having tattoos - insisting the ink is POISONING them.

Prof Frobose, 60, said: “I would forbid footballers from being tattooed. Clubs take every little aspect of their players’ health seriously, yet they don’t care about this behaviour at all.

“It would do clubs good if they paid more attention to their responsibilities, and the efficiency of their players.

“Various studies have shown that players suffer a three to five per cent drop in performance level after having a tattoo done.

[…]

“Further research has shown that 60-70 per cent of the ink from tattoos doesn’t stay on the skin, but instead passes into the bloodstream.

“As a result one’s powers of recovery suffer, and you are no longer as fresh as previously. Green and blue lymph nodes can be a consequence.

When he says “after having a tattoo done”, that means the first tattoo, right?

Losing a full twentieth of your athletic performance after getting a single tattoo seems like a very drastic result. Is it real?


What I've done already:

  • Searched Skeptics Stack Exchange for tattoo performance, 0 relevant results

  • Searched Google for various queries (I only found downstream aggregators re-hosting The Sun's article, and SEO blogs that matched ChatGPT's output)

  • Asked ChatGPT; I couldn't get anything out of it that was meaningful, provided any potential for follow-up investigation, or was even relevant to my question as-asked

  • Searched Google Scholar for athlete tattoo performance. Among the first 3 pages, only a very few articles were even close to relevant, and none of them actually relevant:

    • Mueller, Bayer, Antenna, and Gysin, 2020, which only compared players who have tattoos to players who don't have tattoos, not the actual longitudinal outcomes of a previously clean player getting a tattoo. (They report personality differences for the tattooed players, including higher incidence of foul “yellow flag” conduct.)

    • Kluger and Ahava, 2021, which only compared players who have tattoos to players who don't have tattoos, not the actual longitudinal outcomes of a previously clean player getting a tattoo. (They report slightly positive performance data for the tattooed players, but posit that the differences are due to psychological and cultural factors.)

    • Luetkemeier, Hanisko, and Aho, 2017, which only compared the sweat from tattooed skin to that of un-tattooed skin, not the actual longitudinal outcomes of a previously clean player getting a tattoo. (They report seemingly detrimental data for the tattooed skin, but do not investigate whether this translates into performance issues in practice.)

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    It's true that lymph nodes can get stained from tattoos. That study (not about athletes) found "elevated levels of metals including aluminum, chromium, iron, nickel and copper" in one person's nodes and "cadmium and mercury" in another. However, it did not explore the health impacts of this, so there may not be a good answer to your question at present.
    – Laurel
    Oct 9, 2023 at 13:10
  • Another research direction would be looking at Dr Ingo Frobose. Quick googling shows he is indeed a professor at a German sports university. Here is an official list of his publications: fis.dshs-koeln.de/de/persons/ingo-frob%C3%B6se/publications I haven't checked whether any of them are concerned with tatoos.
    – quarague
    Oct 14, 2023 at 6:17

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